“Too Much Screen Time in Norwich” – Valley News
Jim Kenyon of the Valley News wrote about the Norwich Selectboard a few months ago… entitled “Too Much Screen Time in Norwich”, he took on the increasing habit that some of us have of dialing in or videoconferencing into meetings from remote locations. In the article I am cited for doing so 3 out of the 22 meetings… I can count at least 5 times off the top of my head up to that point, so I got away with looking a little better than I actually have been.
The usual reason cited for joining remotely is work, and that’s all you see in this article. But even more important than work is time with family. If I’m on an anniversary trip with my wife, if kids have events out of state, or if the whole family spends a few weeks at our cottage in Canada for the summer (tough life, I know), the last thing I want to do (although I have done on multiple occasions, including for the August 8 meeting) is travel all the way home to sit in a basement of Town Hall for 3-4 hours only to have to return where I was the following morning or skip being with them altogether. Tibby, our eldest, did a semester abroad in Switzerland this winter, for example. I had considered dialing in remotely (starting at 12:30am and likely ending close to 4am local time) but ultimately decided that both I and the rest of the board would be better off without that distraction.
One of the issues that caused me to run for office in the first place is that parents of the kids in our local school system were rarely represented. Literally, nobody has been on the board in sometime with school age children. Parents are just too busy, and while John Langhus and I have those same constraints (work and family and extracurriculars), we’ve chosen very intentionally to try to contribute regardless. At great cost, sometimes. Meetings are only twice a month, officially. But it seems special meetings are regularly warned, and with multiple public hearings these past few months due to the Town Plan debate, the work in front of the public (4 extra meetings in 30 days at peak) as well as behind the scenes to digest and incorporate the vast amounts of public input being provided makes this feel close to a “real” job (for which we get paid a $500 annual stipend, which on principle based on budgetary pushback I have not yet taken).
Regardless, Jim gives us important things to think about. And when it comes time to vote, if “being present” at 100% of meetings is a critical concern, people with multiple priorities won’t get elected. The good news is that there are 5 of us on the Norwich Selectboard… we know each other quite well and generally the few absences haven’t caused any major setbacks or surprises.